Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicants. He corrected the entry in the docket, saying that the Board has already approved the transfer, but the applicants just haven’t completed it.
Mr. Ian Parrish testified about the construction issues that have held up the project. He originally received permission to transfer ownership of the license in 2012. The building that the Parrishes bought was in very bad shape and required a lot of construction work to bring it up to code. Parrish said that when the sale closed, he found issues that could not have been discovered during the sale process. There was a lien on the property that the title search did not pick up. The property was full of garbage and had been used for drugs and prostitution. The roof was collapsing and the mortar between the bricks was turning to sand. The Parrishes had to gut the building. So far, he has expended $150,000 and the project will probably end up costing around $1 million.
Chairman Ward asked Kodenski what Article 2B provides for a building owner in Mr. Parrish’s situation. Kodenski replied that, in section 10-503, the owner of a license can have extra time, if there is a delay due to fire, arson, other casualties, BG&E problems, water department problems, or problems with the condition of the building. After looking at the Code with Commissioner Moore, Chairman Ward said that none of what Kodenski mentioned was in the law. Kodenski then quoted a case called Woodfield v. West River Improvement Association, which he said held that the Board does not have to enforce the 180-day provision, if it chooses not to. The commissioners took a few moments to look through the case but could not read it carefully during the hearing.
Commissioner Moore, in the time she was given to read the case, strongly disagreed that the Woodfield case supported Mr. Kodenski’s argument. She said that, even if the prior Board’s policy was to give extra time, “all of that went out the window after the Audit. Those policies and procedures were wrong.” The new commissioners were brought onto the Board specifically to make sure that the old practices do not continue; prior members of the Board were harshly criticized by the Audit for disregarding Maryland state law.
Ward agreed with Commissioner Moore. He told Mr. Kodenski that he could write a legal memorandum outlining his argument, but that unless Kodenski can convince the Board that there is some protection in the law, the license is dead. When Mr. Parrish began to interject, Ward interrupted and told him that the issue is the law. Parrish “bought something that [he] shouldn’t have bought.”
Several community members testified against the extension of the transfer. Mr. Alan Mlinarchik, board member of the Charles North Community Association, testified that the Parrishes have not given the community enough information to support the project. Mr. Mlinarchik told the commissioners that the applicants have not agreed to an updated Memorandum of Understanding with the Charles North Community Association. He submitted emails between himself and one of the Parrishes’ representatives about the proposed MOU. Ms. Jean Knight, who is a community member from the Old Goucher neighborhood, and Sandy Sparks, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, expressed the same concerns that they do not know the applicants’ plans for the space.
In support of the project, Mr. Kelly Cross, president of the Old Goucher Community Association, began by saying that he was very surprised and disappointed to see Ms. Sparks and Ms. Knight in opposition to the Parrishes. He said that his organization resents Charles Village’s encroachment into Old Goucher and Charles Village doesn’t represent his neighborhood. Commisssioner Moore, former President of CVCA, interrupted Cross to tell him that he was mistaken about the historic boundaries of Charles Village Civic Association. Mr. Cross continued with his testimony that his organization strongly supports Mr. Parrish’s plans, because the area needs more nighttime establishments.
Mr. Christopher Willoughby testified as a “special adviser” to Mr. Parrish, with experience in restaurant management and construction. He testified that the plan for the business has not changed since 2012. Commissioner Moore looked through Mr. Willoughby’s email exchanges with Mr. Mlinarchik and noted that they were “pretty nasty.”
|Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed
The Woodfield case does not support Mr. Kodenski’s argument that the Board has the discretion to ignore the “shall” in Article 2B section 10-503(d)(4). The section of the Code says, in its entirety, “A transfer of any license shall be completed not more than 180 days after the Board approves the transfer.” Though the statute, admittedly, does not specifically state a consequence for failure to complete a transfer within 180 days, logic suggests that a transfer authorization would lapse after 180 days, under this section. If the license has been unused during that time, the license would also expire under Article 2B section 10-504(d).